New gay style mag chases pink pound

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The Independent Online
THE women's fashion spread is a 'witty look at lesbian chic'. The celebrity interview is with Tom Hanks, who is playing the role of a homosexual in his new film. And the lifestyle column on financial advice discusses the problem for gays of making a will.

Phase is Britain's first gay style magazine, competing directly with the leaders in that market, including Arena, GQ and Esquire. The first issue, out next week, is glossy and stylish enough to have prompted W H Smith to circulate a memo to its stores telling them to display it with the other style magazines and not with the other gay and sex publications on the top shelf.

With 30 pages of advertising already booked for its second issue and 40,000 posters going up next week to advertise the first, the group of six young homosexual businessmen and women who have put pounds 500,000 into the venture are hoping that they have cracked a hitherto exclusively heterosexual market.

Peter Cummings, 32, previously set up the biggest gay publishing house in Britain, Prowler Press. Blase, the new firm he has started to publish Phase, is funded by a group of colleagues including Wanda Goldwag, director of international foreign exchange for Thomas Cook, and Ivan Massow, a financial adviser who presents the financial news on Scottish TV.

A manifesto in the first issue states: 'We gay men and lesbians do have perspectives on things ranging from film to finance to sport to anything - well, why shouldn't we? Can it be healthy for all our raw data to arrive with a het slant? We think not.'

While Mr Cummings stresses the cultural need for such a magazine - 'The UK's three million gay men and women are smart; there are sophisticated gay news and style magazines around the world, and it's about time we had one too' - one spur for the venture has undoubtedly been the change in the attitude of advertisers to homosexual publications and issues. According to Mr Cummings: 'The pink pound has never been more fiercely chased. The spending power and brand loyalty of gay consumers are not to be ignored lightly.' Smirnoff, Stella Artois and Bravo TV have all taken large displays in the first issue.

Mr Cummings says: 'The mainstream style press in this country, like the mainstream press, tends to ignore gay people. The presumption on a fashion shoot is that there's straight sexuality going on. In our magazine, when someone gives someone else a peck on the cheek it will be people of the same sex.

'But the important point is that all other gay magazines have a message of being oppressed and having problems and being arrested. Our message is that it's great to be gay, we're having a really good time, come and join the party.'

As a style and listings magazine, Phase does not seem to see its role as preaching or even concerning itself with safe sex. In the listings, next to 'the most upmarket gay men's sauna in London' are lists of Cruise Bars such as 'Britain's largest leather/rubber club', 'sleazy young discobar', 'good place to stage a pick-up' etc.

Even the film director Derek Jarman, who is dying of Aids, is upbeat and hedonistic in the first issue. He writes: 'I'll have a state funeral, send all the boys to saunas, get them suntanned so they can march on the streets of London quite naked, bronzed and good-looking. Turn the House of Commons into a back-room for the under-21s for a night. I hope boys will carry on falling in love with boys and girls with girls, and they'll find no way to change that.'